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Fall 2005


A High-Flying Legal Career During his first two years as chief justice of the Oregon Supreme Court, Wallace P. Carson Jr. JD’62 visited every court in Oregon’s state court system — but did so at a slower pace than he was used to. In addition to his full-time legal career, Carson served for 34 years in the U.S. Air Force as a jet fighter pilot and a Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corp. officer. When he was appointed chief justice of the Court, an increasingly tight budget meant he had limited travel funds for visiting courts in the outermost regions of the state. Carson was left to sluggishly journey by car, which substantially lengthened his travel time. It took two years, but Carson finally made a visit to all Oregon state courts. His determination to personally visit the courthouses, judges and staff in each region clearly demonstrates his devotion to serving the people of Oregon.


arson is humble about his role on the Oregon helped categorize Oregon law into the current Oregon Supreme Court, as he is about his years of Revised Statute system. “In the days before electronic public service in other government arenas. His research, Professor Haley taught me how to break into lifetime of public service began in college; he enrolled the statutes,” Carson said, adding that the research in the ROTC at Stanford University. He received his skills learned from Haley have been useful throughout commission at graduation and immediately enlisted his career. for three years of active duty. His military service took Following his graduation from Willamette in 1962, him to both post-war Korea and Taiwan. Afterward, Carson began working full time in private practice in Carson enrolled in Willamette University’s College his family’s Salem, Ore., law firm, which was founded of Law. But his military service did not end when he by his grandfather in 1889. “In the back of my mind,” started law school. Throughout his legal career and said Carson, “I always thought that I might run for until his military office. I was active retirement 15 years in school politics, ago, Carson held a “I believe adamantly in the strength of all running for class number of positions three branches [of government] and the value office every year in in the U.S. military. of the judicial system.” grade school through In addition to flying college. And during — Wallace Carson Jr. JD’62 jets and serving as my undergraduate a ground control years at Stanford, intercept officer the university was a hotbed of political activity.” during active duty, he also was a JAG officer of the Three years after earning his law degree, Carson was U.S. Air Force Reserve and served in the Oregon Air recruited to run for a seat in the Oregon House of National Guard, where he advanced to the rank of Representatives by Bob Packwood, who was a state brigadier general. representative at the time. He won that election Carson’s career in state government took shape while and served two terms in the House, including one he was a student at the College of Law. He said of as majority leader. He won elections for the Oregon all his classes, Legislative Workshop aided his legal Senate in 1970 and 1974, and participated in his last career the most. The course was taught by Sam R. legislative session in 1977. “It was a kinder and gentler Haley, who was an adjunct professor at the time. period of time, even with partisan flare-ups,” said Haley, who also worked as counsel to the legislature, Carson, of his 11-year legislative tenure. “We served had been hired to revise the Oregon statutes. He 30

Willamette Lawyer | Fall 2005 • Vol. V, No. 2